A key ingredient for an out-of-control forest fire is a lack of rain. The cruel irony is that rain in the wake of a wildfire can result in even more human suffering. Rain runs off of a freshly burned forest, devoid of moisture-absorbing vegetation, almost as it runs off a large slab of pavement. Moderate-to-heavy rainfall can result in flash flooding.
This means a lot of those who almost lost homes to fire may not be in the clear as we enter Colorado's annual monsoon season.
Sen. Mark Udall, R-Colorado, is already on it. Seeing the potential for floods in Colorado Springs and other locations harmed by wildfires this spring, Udall has teamed up with Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., on legislation that would waive the 30-day waiting period on newly purchased flood-insurance policies for those living in areas that have become prone to flooding as the result of wildfires on federal-government land.
"Colorado is in the midst of one of the most severe wildfire seasons on record. These fires are taking an incredible toll on communities and using millions of dollars of local, state and federal resources," Udall said. "However, long after the last embers are extinguished, these fires continue to have lasting effects on our land and water supply. It is critical that residents living in newly flood-prone areas have access to federal flood insurance policies. This legislation will give Coloradans access to another tool to protect their properties and livelihoods from the ripple effects of these catastrophic wildfires."
The 30-day waiting period for federal flood insurance is essential for most property owners. Without it, some in flood-prone areas would decline to buy flood insurance until the day a levy is almost breached or downpours of precipitation are predicted. Insurance pools work only if people buy into them during times of minimal risk.
Udall's bill makes an exception because property owners near wildfires suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves in flood-prone areas through no fault of their own. Until last week, most homes on the west side of Colorado Springs were not at high risk for floods. Today, they could be flooded by the next thunderstorm that blows through with little advanced notice.
The National Flood Insurance program isn't a government entitlement. It is not a subsidy or a handout to people who have made poor choices. It is an insurance pool that is funded by potential beneficiaries of insurance settlements.
We thank Sen. Udall for once again getting in front of a problem in time to make a difference, and we urge Congress to pass this common sense bill.
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